On the latest volume of his continuing series of 21st century mystical music John Zorn mixes the sound and the arrangements of projects like Masada, Bar Khoba and The Dreamers to a hot and boiling irresistible stew. The songs here are influenced by klezmer, gypsy folk, Spanish traditionals, modern jazz and classical music, swing, Middle Eastern melodies, bar jazz, soundtrack scores and easy listening. You may call that inconsistent but of course it is not since we are dealing with a postmodern composer here. As on “A Vison in Blakelight” Zorn makes use of the Nova Express quartet again – John Medeski (p), Kenny Wollesen (vib), Trevor Dunn (b), Joey Baron (dr) – which is reinforced here by the two string players Mark Feldman (v) and Erik Friedlander (c), and this all star line-up combines and recombines into a variety of dynamic small chamber ensembles ranging from sextets to solos and duets and trios to various quartets and quintets.
My favorites are the lush sextet “Passage to Essentuki”, the two lyrical vibes/piano quartets “Life is real only then” and “Persepolis”, the two piano trios “Towards Kafiristan” and “A Portrait of Moses Cordovero)”, the solo piano piece “The Way of a Sly Man”, which sounds like a manic Satie composition played in a Western saloon, and the bass/cello duo “The Silver Thread” with its Morricone allusions. The album is especially great because of its variety, its accessibility, its rhythmic and harmonic complexity and its awe-inspiring musicianship.
Listen to “Passage to Essentuki”: